Germany recognises Yazidi massacre by ISIL as ‘genocide’

After seizing parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014, the armed group ISIL killed 1,200 Yazidis and enslaved and raped 7,000 others.

Yazidi camps
Yazidi children walk carrying school books at the Kabarto camp for civilians displaced by war in Iraq, January, 2017 [File: Alice Martins/AP Photo]

Germany’s lower house has recognised as “genocide” the 2014 massacre by the armed group ISIL (ISIS) against the Yazidi minority group in Iraq and Syria.

The move by parliamentarians on Thursday condemned “indescribable atrocities” and “tyrannical injustice” carried out by ISIL fighters “with the intention of completely wiping out the Yazidi community”.

After seizing large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014, ISIL killed more than 1,200 Yazidis, enslaved 7,000 Yazidi women and girls, and displaced most of the 550,000-strong community from their homes in northern Iraq.

Deputies in the Bundestag passed the motion by three parliamentary groups in Germany’s governing coalition – including the Greens and Free Democrats, the Social Democrats, and the opposition conservative CDU/CSU bloc.

Greens lawmaker Max Lucks said Germany was home to what is believed to be the world’s largest Yazidi diaspora of about 150,000 people, meaning the country had a particular responsibility to the community.

“Their pain will never go away,” he told the Bundestag. “We owe this to the Yazidis because we did not take action [in 2014] when we were needed. Our silence cost lives.”

‘Abducted, enslaved, raped’

The resolution said the chamber “recognises the crimes against the Yazidi community as genocide, following the legal evaluations of investigators from the United Nations”.

Thursday’s recognition came after a German court in 2021 jailed a former ISIL soldier for crimes against humanity against Yazidis in Iraq and Syria, including the murder of a five-year-old girl.

The motion to recognise the crimes also urged the German judicial system to pursue other cases of perpetrators in the country and boost funding to help build Yazidi communities.

Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock tweeted about the ruling:, “Three years ago, I met Yazidi women in northern Iraq. They were abducted, enslaved, raped. I cannot let go of their pain.”

Yazidi community
Members of Iraq’s Yazidi community hold photos of victims of an August 2014 massacre carried out in the Sinjar region [Ismael Adnan/AFP]

The Yazidi community

Mirza Dinnayi, head of Air Bridge Iraq, an NGO helping victims who live in Germany, said the motion was “pioneering” to address “the consequences of the genocide”.

Dinnayi welcomed the inclusion of “practical steps the German government can take to support the Yazidi community in Iraq as well as the diaspora”.

The Yazidis are an ancient religious minority in eastern Syria and northwest Iraq that ISIL viewed as supposed devil worshippers for their faith that combines Zoroastrian, Christian, Manichean, Jewish and Muslim beliefs.

A special UN investigation team said in May 2021 it collected “clear and convincing evidence” that the armed group committed genocide against the Yazidis.

An offshoot of al-Qaeda, ISIL was overthrown by US-backed counteroffensives, losing its last territorial redoubt in 2019. Germany is one of the few countries to have taken legal action against ISIL.

Source: News Agencies